With its remote location and epic landscapes, Hanalei Valley has always moved in a natural tempo. Realizing they were blessed with such fecund land, its earliest residents grew large amounts of maiʻa (bananas), ʻulu (breadfruit), ʻuala (sweet potatoes), niu (coconuts), and kalo (taro). Ancient Polynesians considered taro to be their direct ancestor and their ‘staff of life.’ As time passed, numerous other agricultural ventures took shape, including the growing of tobacco, coffee, rice, sugarcane, cotton and a variety of fruits like pineapples, tamarinds and even oranges and peaches. As with the rest of the Hawaiian Islands, the plantation era on Kauaʻi brought Japanese, Chinese, Filipino and Portuguese immigrants to help work the fields, resulting in its present-day multiethnic population.
When Hawaiian kings came to visit the valley, residents practiced the ancient custom of hoʻokupu (gift giving) by bringing offerings such as fruits, vegetables, fish and pigs for their royalty. Though Hanalei has always carried a reputation of strong aloha, as recently as the 1970s the social temperature and lawlessness of these parts was something akin to the ‘Wild West.’ With the influx of mainland hippies seeking a tropical utopia, international surfers pining for an endless summer and the lot of them on the lookout for anything but responsibility, growing pains were unavoidable for this haven.
Since the mid-20th century – many thanks to Hollywood’s cameras – Hanalei and the surrounding North Shore’s peaks, valleys and coastline have gained celebrity status, which also explains the recent influx of celebrity residents.